Mobile phones have long been treated as contraband in classrooms, but this school year, hundreds of fifth- and sixth-graders in Toms River, N.J., will carry smart phones into their classrooms to fulfill a new academic requirement, NJ.com reports. The project, the first of its kind in New Jersey, incorporates the phones into the curriculum in the state’s fourth-largest school district and could radically revamp the way students learn. “This is a great alternative to traditional pen and pencil work and promotes better critical thinking skills,” said Vicki Rhein, a fifth-grade teacher at Silver Bay Elementary School who participated in the pilot program. “We’re finding that students are more engaged and even requesting to delve deeper into topics.” The program, which started with 100 students, will now reach 1,000. The collaboration among Toms River Regional Schools, Verizon Wireless, and GoKnow! Inc., which develops educational software for mobile devices, makes Toms River the largest district in the country to use cell phones as mobile learning devices. Using the phones, students will be able to conduct research, write reports, download books, and draw or animate projects. Their instructors can develop lesson plans that meet the students’ need. The devices cannot make or receive calls and do not have texting capability…

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Laura Ascione

Laura Ascione is the Managing Editor, Content Services at eSchool Media. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland's prestigious Philip Merrill College of Journalism. When she isn't wrangling her two children, Laura enjoys running, photography, home improvement, and rooting for the Terps. Find Laura on Twitter: @eSN_Laura http://twitter.com/eSN_Laura